It was a great night for scoring in the NBA, especially with the league’s younger (though not necessarily young) stars breaking records and putting emphasis on how scoring has become an integral part of the league.
In one of the NBA’s nightcap games, however, Kevin Durant provided another reminder that he too, can light up the scoreboard.
The Phoenix Suns trailed by as many as 23 points after a DeMar DeRozan 3-pointer gave the Chicago Bulls a 79-56 lead with 8:06 left in the third quarter. Led by Durant, the Suns began to chip at the lead, bringing the lead down to single digits heading into the fourth quarter.
It was still a team effort that allowed Phoenix to tie the game and eventually take the lead in the final quarter, but when the outcome of the game was hanging in the balance, all eyes were on Durant.
The KD masterclass was one of 3-pointers and nifty layups although the final shot was special. The mid-air adjustment added a degree of difficulty, but Durant makes things like these look effortless. When the dust settled, Durant finished the victory over the Bulls with 43 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and a steal. To top it all off, he also made the crucial stop on DeRozan on the final play of the game.
All things considered, Durant has been having himself a pretty good season thus far. Through 36 games, the two-time NBA champion is averaging 29.6 points (on 53.1/46.4/88.1 shooting splits), 6.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game, numbers that only go to show that he can still influence a game in various ways.
Durant’s recent stretch of games, though, have been stellar to say the least. His 43 points against Chicago were not only a season-high, but also his second-straight 40-point game and it becomes an even greater achievement when you remember that this was also the second night of back-to-back games.
The previous 40-point game was already a great one in itself, as Durant did so without a single free throw attempt.
It’s also no surprise that Durant’s scoring surge has coincided with the Suns’ six-game winning streak. Phoenix had a slow start to their 2023-2024 regular season, teetering between being above or under .500 for much of 2023. Injuries to Durant and various Suns players were a factor, but when the calendar turned to 2024 and everyone was more or less on the mend, the wins kept coming for Phoenix.
With the longest active win streak in the Western Conference, the Suns clearly have momentum to close the gap between them and the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves. Durant keeping his play up will certainly be critical, but Phoenix may come to a point where they will have to manage Durant’s workload by getting more from his teammates.
Bradley Beal and Devin Booker will likely be called upon now that their ailments seem to be behind them. They deferred to Durant as he took over against the Bulls, and as the season goes on, they will have to find the balance between taking over and maximizing a supporting role. At 35, Durant continues to play at a high level, but the Suns are better off if he can maintain this high level come May and June.
Kevin Durant’s 43-point performance against the Chicago Bulls may have been overshadowed by the offensive explosions from the likes of Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, but that shouldn’t discount its importance to him and the Phoenix Suns. Besides, we’re at the point where we should appreciate Durant for what he is while he’s battling with the NBA’s best.